Michigan became the 24th state to enact Right to Work Laws yesterday, in what was largely seen as a tremendous blow to labor unions and the ability to effectively engage in collective bargaining. You’ve probably seen the images of the Michigan capitol building being swarmed by pro-union supporters protesting the legislation on the news. Fired up despite the cold, they filled the complex to capacity and yet they left dismayed when the legislation passed the state House of Representatives and made its way to the Governor’s desk. Without a moment’s hesitation, Governor Rick Snyder signed into law the union-busting bill.
Proponents of the legislation argue that this will help stimulate a depressed Michigan economy by making the state more appealing to businesses. Michigan, which was the birthplace of the modern American labor movement, will now ban requirements that workers pay fees for union representation, which as critics argue not only will weaken unions but also drive down wages.
I have a hard time believing that, “this is the day when Michigan freed its workers,” as Lisa Posthumus Lyons, a Republican representative audaciously said.
If that was truly the case, then I think Michigan Republicans wouldn’t have rushed this legislation through their departing days of session. In fact, it was only last Thursday that this movement gained some momentum. Let’s not be naive, this was a cold and calculated decision by Republicans to rush through controversial legislation so quickly that labor unions couldn’t get a foothold in the fight and establish a counter-campaign. If this was such a miraculous piece of legislation, Governor Snyder wouldn’t have signed it privately.
The only possible silver lining to this legislation: Michigan Republicans just handed the keys to the capitol to the Democrats for 2014.
My worry and my fear is rooted in the experience of successful campaigns by the Republicans to divide the middle class against each other. During campaign season, they will undoubtedly pat themselves on the back, and ask you to pat it for them for protecting the middle-class and creating jobs. Without failure, there will be those upon us that buy into a Super-PAC advertisement that convinces you to vote against your own financial interests.
Let’s not kid ourselves, yes the economy is still depressed, but it is moving in the right direction. Granted, it’s not as quick as we would like, but we are far from stagnant. However, corporate profits have soared to a record high. Seriously. Yet, wages and labor compensation are down.
So let’s tie that back to the travesty we seen yesterday in Michigan. State republicans smashed the power of unions to pieces, and across the country from the Republican Caucus in Washington to the GOP faithful in state capitols we’ve experienced a push to reduce corporate tax rates, and the middle class experiences no financial gain while corporations line their pockets at labor’s expense.
Republicans across the country are attempting to rob you of opportunity and increase the already enormous profits for their corporate backers, and then they’ll ask you to thank them for it.